Yes! Vir Das is back on Netflix with ‘Hasmukh’ after his incredible special, ‘For India.’ With the increasing trend of the dark-comedy genre like ‘Parasite’ and ‘Stree,’ ‘Hasmukh’ too attempts to cement its place in this genre with an absolutely brilliant plot idea (delightful and diabolical to be precise): Hasmukh (Vir Das), a struggling stand-up comedian is desperate to kick-start his career and in an unexpected turn of events, his career starts with a murder. But what’s even worse, he discovers that he only gets the ‘feel’ of performing after murdering someone! Once he has tasted blood and experienced the high of success, there’s nothing stopping him and his newfound addiction. Armed with this new-found craving, Hasmukh becomes a youtube sensation and finds his way into a comedy show in Mumbai as a wild card entry. The protagonist, who we grow to love, is also a serial killer.
The first episode, for me, was one of the best: a great introduction to the characters, the setting and situation befalls our protagonist. The show dives right into the plot without wasting much time, hooking the audience in the first few scenes, before the intro music starts (played almost halfway into the episode). But the show starts to fall a bit from there. Shows that revolve around stand-up comedy are supposed to have great comic material and especially with Vir Das being one of the writers along with Neeraj Pandey, Suparn Verma, Amogh Ranadive, Nikhil Advani and director Nikhil Gonsalves the expectations were really high. But unfortunately the writing doesn’t meet those expectations – quite a letdown to be honest. There are some hidden gems, though, like the satire about lawyers in Mumbai and of course the next show with the satire about Indian women but the reactions of the audience, the judge and the other characters slightly overdo it; they break the flow of the delivery and reduce the impact of the delivery.
A huge positive about the show though is the smart plotting and pacing of each episode. Each episode adds new twist to the story, which constantly increases the excitement and suspense, making the show quite easy to watch. Each episode ends with a cliffhanger, a new source of suspense to cling onto. The thought, “will his past ever catch up to him?” keeps reminding the audience of the uncertainty of his fate, injecting a sense of edginess to the show, which glues the audience to their seats, waiting for the next episode.
With his incredible talent and diversity, India’s leading English-language stand-up comedian, Vir Das, makes a smooth transition to Hindi with ease. He is without doubt the standout factor of the show. Though used to doing stand-up in English, his delivery while doing stand-up in Hindi is very effective, though not the best written in this case, and especially with that slight UP accent that he adopts. He’s acted well and is very convincing as his character; even in the emotional scenes while speaking to Sasha in episode 6 – brilliant. Ranvir Shorey (playing Jimmy ‘the maker,’ Hasmukh’s manager) complements Hasmukh’s character exceptionally with his gold grill and his signature newsboy cap. Their teamwork and brilliant chemistry is what holds this show together and provides majority of the positive moments of the show. Ravi Kishan (as the owner of the channel), Manoj Pahwa (as Gulati), Amrita Bagchi (as Promila) and Deeksha Sonalkar (as Rhea) do justice to their characters. Suhail Nayyar also does a good job as Krushna Kumar (Hasmukh’s rival), with effective delivery during his stand-up. The competition between K.K. and Hasmukh at the end of the competition provides some of the best scenes of the show. One of my favourites (apart from Shorey and Das), however, was definitely Inaamulhaq as the police officer. His tagline is great and he delivers it brilliantly every time. The performances help emphasize on each character’s convincing backstories – another major positive for the show.
Director Nikhil Gonsalves has adeptly handled the material he was given and has done well with the screenplay, which may not have been the best. There were some scenes, which weren’t as well thought out I guess: Hasmukh chokes a character in the car, the car is seen taking turns on the road but somehow it always seems to stay on the road despite the driver being choked. Nikhil definitely focuses more on the dark-thriller scenes than the comedic but still manages to deliver a binge-worthy but a one-time watch limited show.
All in all, Hasmukh does have a lot of potential with its performances, plotting, pacing and emphasis on its characters backstories but some of its comedic material and certain over-the-top scenes drag it down. It is definitely a pleasing one-time watch for those looking for a dark, crime drama but not those looking for comedic relief.
– Aryamaan Dholakia
Aryamaan’s Score – 69/100 Aman’s Score –